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United States v. Castrillon-Sanchez

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

June 28, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
ROSA E. CASTRILLON-SANCHEZ, Defendant, Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO [Hon. Carmen Consuelo Cerezo, U.S. District Judge].

          Jose R. Gaztambide-Aneses, on brief for appellant.

          James I. Pearce, Attorney, Appellate Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Leslie R. Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Sung-Hee Suh, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney, Southern District of Florida, H. Ron Davidson, Assistant United States Attorney, Charles R. Walsh, Trial Attorney, Criminal Division, and Luke Cass, Trial Attorney, Criminal Division, on brief for appellee.

          Before Thompson, Kayatta, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          BARRON, Circuit Judge.

         Rosa E. Castrillón-Sánchez ("Castrillón") led a large-scale fraudulent financial scheme for five years. After the scheme came to an end, she pleaded guilty to criminal charges, based on her conduct during the course of the scheme. On appeal, she contends that her sentence was substantively unreasonable. We affirm.

         I.

         In July 2010, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico charged Castrillón and eight others with a variety of criminal conduct. The first count charged all defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. Castrillón and various co-defendants were also charged with eleven counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343; fourteen counts of bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344; and four counts of money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1957(a). Finally, Castrillón alone was charged with four counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A.

         The charges pertained to a fraudulent scheme that ran from April 2005 to March 2010. During that time, Castrillón and her co-defendants falsely and fraudulently induced over ninety people to provide Castrillón with funds totaling more than five million dollars. Those funds allegedly came from victims' savings and brokerage accounts, loans provided by their family and friends, and unsecured personal loans made by financial institutions.

         According to the pre-sentence investigation report (PSR) prepared by the probation office prior to sentencing, the fraud operated as follows. Castrillón would befriend an individual and confide that she was the beneficiary of a Certificate of Deposit or trust for a large amount of money that was either pledged as collateral or frozen at a local bank. Castrillón would tell the targeted individual that she needed money to enable her to obtain the funds that she was due as the beneficiary of the Certificate of Deposit or trust, and that she would pay the targeted individual back once she obtained her funds. Castrillón would often induce her victims to take out bank loans and provide her with the proceeds of those loans. Sometimes, Castrillón also prepared fraudulent documents for the targeted individuals to submit to banks, so that those individuals could obtain loans and then give the resulting funds to Castrillón. Castrillón also used targeted individuals' personal information to obtain loans or cash advances in their names and without their knowledge. And, to help perpetuate the fraud, Castrillón prevented targets from contacting law enforcement by giving them lulling payments or by threatening them with violence, criminal liability, or the loss of their money. Overall, the fraud continued for five years.

         The grand jury indicted Castrillón in July 2010, and she was arrested the next day. In December 2013, Castrillón pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to two of the indictment's counts: one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, and one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A. The District Court dismissed the remaining counts against Castrillón on the government's motion.

         The plea agreement set forth sentencing recommendations based on calculations made under the United States Sentencing Guidelines.[1] With respect to the conspiracy count, the plea agreement calculated Castrillón's base offense level as seven, U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(a)(1), and then applied an eighteen-level enhancement based on the amount of money lost, id. at § 2B1.1(b)(1)(J); a four-level enhancement based on the number of victims who suffered substantial financial hardship, id. at § 2B1.1(b)(2)(B); a four-level enhancement based on Castrillón's role as a leader of the conspiracy, id. at § 3B1.1(a); and a two-level reduction based on Castrillón's acceptance of responsibility for her actions, id. at § 3E1.1(a). The plea agreement thus determined Castrillón's total offense level to be 31. The plea agreement did not stipulate a criminal history category for Castrillón. But, the plea agreement did note that, assuming a criminal history category of I (the lowest level), a total offense level of 31 corresponds to a guidelines sentencing range of 108-135 months' imprisonment. U.S.S.G. Ch. 5, Pt. A (Sentencing Table).

         For the aggravated identity theft count, the plea agreement relied on a sentence prescribed by statute. Congress has mandated a sentence of 24 months' imprisonment for aggravated identity theft, 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1), to run consecutively with any other term of imprisonment, id. at § 1028A(b). The plea agreement thus recommended a total sentence of 132 months' imprisonment: 108 months for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud -- the low end of the guidelines range -- and 24 months for aggravated identity theft.

         At sentencing, the District Court considered the PSR, which recounted Castrillón's conduct in detail and made recommendations concerning Castrillón's sentence. With respect to the conspiracy count, the PSR's calculation of the total offense level was identical to the plea agreement's calculation, except in one respect: the PSR found applicable a two-level enhancement based on the vulnerability of Castrillón's victims, many of whom were elderly and unsophisticated. U.S.S.G. § 3A1.1(b)(1). As a result, the PSR calculated a total offense level of 33, rather than the plea agreement's total offense level of 31. The PSR also determined that Castrillón's criminal history category was II. Based on these determinations, the PSR calculated a guidelines sentencing range of 151-188 months' ...


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